Many people believe that they have a sinus problem. The word ‘sinus’ is so common that you easily have something recommended for you by a friend or colleague when they hear you sneezing frequently.
But the truth is nasal symptoms do not always mean sinus problem, they could just be of allergy origin and without infection involved, which is more common.
What are sinuses?
Sinuses are moist hollow spaces in the bones around the nose, eyes and cheeks. They communicate and drain into the nasal cavity through little openings. There is a constant air exchange between the nose and the sinuses. These spaces are lined with a thin layer that produces watery mucus all the time. Medics believe that sinuses filter and humidify the air we breathe, absorb shock, lighten the head and give your voice resonance.
What is sinus -itis?
Sinusitis is a medical term that refers to the inflammation of the membrane lining that any of these spaces (sinus). The inflammation is usually a result disease causing creatures called bacteria, viruses, or fungus. A short term condition of this often responds to antibiotics and medicines that unblock the nose. When this lasts for long (more than 12 weeks) and recurs frequently, it is often referred to as chronic.
What are signs and symptoms of sick sinuses?
An infection of sinuses usually presents with facial pain or pressure, blocked nose, runny nose/discharge, decreased sense of smell, bad breath, cough and sometimes accompanied by fever.
The severity of signs differs with the cause and may be more severe when they are caused by common bugs called bacteria. The colour of discharge may be yellow or green.
Is there any treatment?
Doctors usually give some antibiotics when they suspect sinusitis. The treatment may last for 10 to 15 days. When the symptoms persist after the treatment, it may be necessary to see a doctor who specializes in Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT).
What are the signs and symptoms of chronic sinusitis?
When the following symptoms persist for consecutive 12 weeks or more, one is said to be suffering from chronic sinusitis: facial pain or fullness, facial congestion, blocked nose, thick discharge from the nose, pus, bad breath, fatigue or sometimes fever.
Does blocked nose always mean I have sinusitis?
No. sometimes the inner lining of the nose reacts to certain irritants in the air that you breathe. This usually causes inflammation and swelling of the inner structures of the nose and which often come with discharge. These symptoms are usually associated with hay fever (allergic rhinitis). However, allergy and sinusitis are linked together. Allergy causes swelling of structures inside the nose and this may lead to sinusitis.
Can I use non prescription sprays and drops?
Yes you can but you should always see a doctor because these may only deal with the blockage symptoms and not the infection, which should be confirmed by your doctor. It is important to use these sprays and drops as recommended or for shorter periods to avoid worsening your symptoms, as is the case with some decongestants.
What treatment plan should I expect from my doctor?
Your doctor usually makes the decision based on his or her findings. You may receive some spray or drops to fight the blockage, or, if found necessary, you may be given antibiotics or some pills to fight the allergy.
What if the symptoms persist?
If the symptoms persist, your doctor may refer you to an ENT specialist for further investigations and management.
Should I change my lifestyle?
You should, especially if you are a smoker. Smoking destroys the inner lining of the sinuses, and this may precipitate infection.
Is surgery an option?
Sometimes the ENT surgeon may consider doing an operation if you do not improve on conservative treatment mentioned above. Recovery is usually within a few weeks and you may start experiencing some relief.
Why should I see a doctor?
Treatment is usually meant to improve the quality of your life. It is usually meant to stop facial pain, headache, bad breath, nasal blockage, and general discomfort caused by this condition.
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